There isn’t much room in the typical studio apartment. RENTCafe says that the average studio apartment built in 2016 was just 504 square feet, a dip of 18 percent from studios built 10 years earlier.
That can lead to cramped living. Which is where Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Ori Systems comes in. The company has created a pair of robotic storage and sleeping units – the Ori Full and Ori Queen – designed to free up space in small, urban apartment units. The systems consist of a combined storage unit and queen or full bed. Owners just touch a button and the bed disappears inside the unit, freeing up space. They can also turn the unit into a walk-in closet or office.
The system, then, basically turns one living space into three.
Ori is debuting the systems at apartment buildings in 10 cities this year. Two of those cities are in the Midwest, Chicago and Columbus.
The companies behind the apartment developments in these cities say that they embraced the chance to showcase Ori’s tech for one reason: It can make their apartment units functionally bigger, a boon for their residents.
Developer Crawford Hoying has installed one Ori unit in its Bridge Park development, an apartment building in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, Ohio. Nelson Yoder, principal with the company, said that the decision was an easy one to make: With the living systems, Crawford Hoying can make smaller studio apartments that cost less, something that will make these units more accessible to younger renters who want to live in an urban environment.
With a unit that basically collapses into itself, these smaller apartment spaces will become more pleasant and functional spaces, Yoder said.
“With the Ori systems, we can build units that are smaller but still have the same functionality as units that are larger and cost more upfront to build,” Yoder said. “Construction prices in high-density areas are going up so much. The rent for even a studio apartment can get out of reach for a young professional. They can’t afford to be in these great buildings. Being able to get a public living space, private bedroom and walk-in closet in one unit is fantastic. And it can change the way we build apartment units.”
Crawford Hoying plans to open tours of its Bridge Park Ori unit starting in early September. The developer has also ordered 20 more units that it will install in its apartments throughout downtown Columbus.
“Things that weren’t practical before are now getting easier and easier,” Yoder said. “We are right on the cutting edge of these new technologies that are starting to emerge. There is so much more technology making homes smarter. Everything can be connected. Whether it is the Ori system or a toaster, it can all communicate with each other. We think this type of system will be gaining some real traction.”
Users can control their Ori systems through either a button on the system itself or through a mobile app. The modular unit itself, in addition to transforming into a bed, closet or office space, can move about a room, so that residents can position it wherever they want throughout the day.
Tandem Development has installed an Ori system at one of the units in its MODE apartment development in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. Jeffrey Hreben, development manager with Tandem, said that his company installed the unit three months ago in the 78-unit building. The goal of Tandem is similar to that of Crawford Hoying: The company recognizes that robotic living systems such as the one offered by Ori can dramatically enhance the comfort of urban living.
“We were blown away by the potential opportunities it provides real estate developers and people who live in the city,” Hreben said. “It is all about more efficient living. As apartments become smaller and more expensive, these systems can meet several needs that we’ve been thinking a lot about.”
Tandem has been using the Ori unit as a demonstration space, and is just now ready to put the unit in which it is installed on the market.
“We describe the unit with the Ori system as a studio that functions like a one-bedroom,” Hreben said. “You get about 150 more square feet of usability in the same footprint. You can also turn that space into an office and closet, so you can really save about 300 square feet just in the footprint of a full-size bed. Seeing it in action, it’s phenomenal the amount of extra space you can devote to living.”